Imagine Fair Park Without the Fair

As he spoke those words, the light bulb appeared over my head in the cappuccino aisle in the super gas station in the suburbs.

Get rid of the State Fair of Texas.

Oh, please, I can hear the howls, and I must tell you that I love the State Fair of Texas, have never missed a single State Fair since I came to Texas 135 years ago and never want to miss one in the next 100 years. But hear me out.

Get rid of the State Fair of Texas. Amicably. Wouldn't the fair be happier anyway up on the former cotton land far north of the city, maybe in conjunction with one of those auto racing tracks or something? Or it could go west toward Fort Worth. Maybe it's time for Dallas to loose its hold on the fair anyway and allow it to become more of a truly statewide entity.

Just for a moment, imagine what we could do with Fair Park if it were ours alone to do with as we wished. The very next thing to do, after unshackling it from the State Fair, would be free it from the grip of all those 1930s exposition buildings and whatever kind of collective historic designation they've got on them. Most of them are crap. All but the very best need to be blown up and hauled to the landfill.

The next thing to free it from is the Dallas Park Department. The land itself needs to be liberated from its legal status as parkland. Why? Because whatever money is needed to rebuild the park as a forest realm will have to be generated by the park itself. There is no other money.

Some of Fair Park should be sold or leased and commercially developed in some use or format that would be compatible with the new park itself. One of those tax recovering mechanisms like a tax-increment finance district, scammy as I have always thought them to be, should be created to reap profits from the commercial development so the money could be used to pay for the park in perpetuity.

We own the greatest piece of it already — the land. We have it in our power as a city to free that land for a new use by asking the State Fair to take a powder, politely. We have it in our power to create a revenue-generating mechanism. And now what?

At that point, when we have freed Fair Park from the shackles of old age and disuse, we will have bestowed upon ourselves a fantastic blank slate. Then the question becomes less what we can do with Fair Park and more whether there is anything we can't do.

Think of it. What if Fair Park became an entirely different kind of planet within the city's solar system, a green world almost without reference to the urban environment outside? And what if you not only could visit there but even live there in a cobblestone village of bicycles, streams, copses and greenswards?

All right, all right, yeah, maybe I'm getting a little too high on all this. Greenswards? I don't even know where that came from. Gotta look it up. "Grassy ground or turf." OK, sure, you would have a lot of grassy ground and turf.

I'm not entirely serious about evicting the State Fair, although I could talk myself into it. But I do have a serious point to make. In order to truly rethink and re-imagine Fair Park, we have to tear it down to the studs in our minds. And then tear the studs down. We need to daydream Fair Park as an entirely new world, not just a fixed-up place.

Part of getting that going is looking outside ourselves and talking to people like Harnik. I believe he offered me a truly valuable insight that I was never going to get from any of the usual suspects locally — can't have a great state fair and a great urban park in the same place. Who in Dallas would have said that? Who knew?

To truly rethink Fair Park, Dallas must exorcise its fear of new ideas and search for just that — something we never dreamed of, but should.

WEB: Imagine Fair Park Without the Fair

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26 comments
WylieH
WylieH

If you look around other parts of the U.S., you will find very few other examples of massive annual fairs being hosted on sites "embedded" in urban, residential neighborhoods.

The only ones that come to mind are St. Paul, Minnesota; Columbus, Ohio and Phoenix, Arizona.  The rest are typically located in commercial zones and cut-off from residential neighborhoods by freeways, railroad lines, etc.  Even those seem to subsist without the acres and acres of paved parking lots like we have at Fair Park.

Maybe there's a good reason.

tim.fooks
tim.fooks

You have to give the public a reason to go to fair park. What is hot right now? Food Trucks. Create a Food Truck Court in Fair Park, like you have done at KWP, and people will come. How many times have we tried to reinvent the wheel we call Farmer's Market? Move it to Fair Park. Trinit Groves would have been a perfect fit for Fair Park. Why not encourage the successes there to open in Fair Park and make a run there? Look at the musci venue Irving is hoping to develope in Las Colinas. I know we have the lets see, what is it called this year, venue that used to be Starplex. Generate something similar to KWP and the Irving Music Factory along with someplace to eat. You have year round interest in Fair Park.

I know it is not as simple as I make it sound, but you have to give people a reason to come. An antique market once a month is not going to get me to come over very often. Package it with some entertainment or a place to eat and there is more interest.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Three and a half weeks of use out of the year has clearly exerted a negative influence on the neighborhoods which surround Fair Park.

Lose the fairgrounds and redevelop it, and a New Harlem would emerge.  The impact would be miles wide.

And it's probably why you see the usual suspects quietly investing along the main thoroughfares.

Dallas is one of the most densely developed cities in Texas and is most often identified as the culprit for its non-participation in Texas' (and DFW's) explosive growth over the last census period.

We must redevelop since we do not have the ability to annex.  

Fair Park, as you envision it, would be a trigger event.  As presently configured and improved, it holds the neighborhoods back.

We've paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

reverse the process.

epicmale
epicmale

Yeah, let's ask the taxpayers to fund another boondoggle, because that is EXACTLY what will happen.

MissMacy
MissMacy

One of the biggest problems with Fair Park is its LOCATION. Does anybody really enjoy that neighborhood?

raymondmcrawford
raymondmcrawford

The City of Dallas needs to hire a real urban planner/expert who has to move here from outside of Texas( to prevent some political stink from being attached to them) and allow that person to create a new design for FP-think of a modern day Daniel Burnham.

But that would never happen because Diane Ragsdale, Mary Suhm, Craig Holcomb and Allan Walne know so much more about urban design for the 21st Century than anyone else. 

In many ways, they are costing us more on an annual basis, than a fancy Yankee urban planner.

mann2c55
mann2c55

First send the State Fair to the tract of land that used to be the home of Cowboys Stadium in Irving. Next, tear down that monstrosity called the Cotton Bowl. That's a start.

casiepierce
casiepierce

Didn't St Louis host a World's Fair one time in Forest Park and built a bunch of temporary buildings that are now designated as historic and way older than our Art Deco ones in Fair Park?

JohnJay24
JohnJay24

The City if it continues to own the property, it should lease it out to whatever for profit business wants a part of it. Many of the ideas in this thread could be incorporated in that. 
It doesn't need a radical billion dollar makeover paid for by people who don't use it. Let businesses get in there as well as plan many more events, make it easier to do so, and give people something to eat. One of the reasons people flock to Klyde Warren Park is the fact that there are things going on, and things to eat and drink. It's the combination. 


For some reason the idea of actual businesses in there selling things that people want doesn't seem to fly with people... which is why the government should not be in the business of managing giant tracts of land. Unless they just want it to be a giant tract of land. 

If the City plays too much of a role, I foresee a good deal of crony capitalism ahead.... but wait this is Dallas... it's paved with crony capitalism, much to the dismay of small business owners. 

d-may
d-may

I have a better idea:
Make the park a place where the neighbors want to go. Families from Frisco aren't coming because there are a million other great places in North Texas competing for their dollars and attention. Fair Park should be thought of as an asset for the neighbors first. The question the city is asking should be, "how do we get the neighbors to go to fair park?" If we can make Fair Park a great spot where the local neighbors are regularly taking their families, then word will get around. It will become cool.

Think about Oak Cliff and the Bishops Arts district. I lived in Oak Cliff in the mid-00's when it still had it's "Oh..." factor. It didn't become a great place by trying to attract white families from Frisco, it became a great place by trying to attract the neighbors. Same with Lower Greenville. Same with just about every place. For a place to become an asset to the city as a whole it first has to be a neighborhood asset. 

jmckee3
jmckee3

Why do we have to do anything to Fair Park? The question of what to do with Fair Park comes up over and over again but why? Just because it is there?

benjeezee
benjeezee

put a big race track in the middle and call it Fair Park Raceway. Surround the track with places to get food and drinks. Surround the outer part of the park with bike trails, trees, landscaping and a couple smoothie shops. 

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Its the red tape killing fair park, not the property itself.


The parking lots are not necessarily a bad thing, if you want people to come, you need parking lots, I don't see Disneyland struggling for people to come because its surrounded by parking lots, that is the most silliest answer I have heard about the issue with fair park....OMG its surrounded by parking lots. Dallas is still not and a fair way off being a city that relies on public transport. you take away the parking lots, you might as well just call Russia to blow it up. They would be happy it and it would cost the citizens of Dallas nothing.


*Screw the farmers market downtown, its a mess and developers want to tear it down and put in apartments anyway, let them...move the market to fair park

*Parents go kookoo with wanting their kids to go somewhere and run in some damn sprinklers (klyde warren)...use those damn reflecting pools for something useful, its 120 degrees outside in the summer for Christ sakes, when Im there in the summer, I want to jump in it

*Fields (parks) around Dallas have been taken away from sporting groups to allow for walking parks with humps or whatever the hell they are doing....Kickballers, baseballers, basketballers, volleyballers would love a big place to go to...EVERYDAY OF THE WEEK

*have some stupid engagement/wedding photo contest...trust me, bitches be crazy and will come in flocks

*battle of the bands...for all ages different weekends that people can bring kids AND dogs to, many people are happy to come out to a "free/small fee" concert, especially if you can bring kids and dogs

*Same thing for art shows

***All of the above must allow purchase of alcohol. This is Dallas after all.



I have not even thought about it yet and that's just a few things I can think of


lawsuth
lawsuth

The general idea of repurposing the area is laudable, although I wouldn't wish to destroy the buildings. They are one of the more clear parts of Dallas history and had been built in the art deco styling of the time. I don't know of any other place in Dallas where I'm so influenced by the particular feelings this area evokes.

Little by little, Dallas forget its past and allows yet another old fortification of memorable architecture to be killed by whatever "well-meaning" businessmen to have touted their faddish schemes to City Hall, or whomever.

mightcan
mightcan

Would Tivoli be considered a successful uban park/fair?

arecbarrwin
arecbarrwin

Fair Park and Klyde Warren Park are distinguished by one obvious difference - Klyde Warren is surrounded by gleaming office towers and 5 star hotels.  Fair Park is surrounded by liquor stores, dilapidated housing, prostitutes, drug dealers, and wandering zombies.

kduble
kduble

@casiepierce Fair Park hosted a World's Fair as well. The difference is that once it's over, you can re-purpose the space. And those buildings in St. Louis? They were nearly all razed. Only a tiny remnant escaped the wrecking ball.

casiepierce
casiepierce

@d-may Just wondering exactly to what neighborhood you're referring. There ARE neighbors and neighborhoods around Fair Park.....

pak152
pak152

@jmckee3 because certain folks like to fiddle with stuff, think of it as adult ADD

kduble
kduble

@mightcan You're proving his point. Tivoli is a year-round attraction. There is no 24-day run.

d-may
d-may

@casiepierce @d-may  Right, those are the neighbors I'm talking about. People that live within 1 one-half mile radius of the park. They should be the target audience first. If we can make it a place where they regularly frequent, others will want to be a part of it too.

pak152
pak152

@bvckvs @arecbarrwin"it's very *difficult* to get to" you do realize that DART (rail and bus) both drop you off at the front gate don'tcha?

as for "the roads are difficult and hazardous to navigate" BS ever heard of GPS? a couple of weeks ago I "navigated" my way to and from my residence in NW Dallas down to Fair Park for a presentation at the Hall of State. Didn't even get on a freeway

 
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